Disclaimer: I don´t own Naruto
This chapter was edited by PraetorXyn
Chapter 08: The New Team (15.10.36 AfoK)
After the first dinner I forced upon Tsunade a few days back I repeated it every day since. Every time she warmed more and more to me, to the idea that aside from Nawaki and the few Senju still alive there were others she could depend on. She even managed to be decent to Kushina as she persuaded me to allow her to tag along.
Decent in Tsunade speech essentially meant she started to like her; it might have had something to do with the fact that most of their time together was spent dissing each other, both of them dishing out as hard as they were taking it, with me in the middle trying to keep them from escalating too far in their banter.
Notwithstanding the resulting discussion I had with Kushina, in which she tried to have Tsunade arrested as an imposter not believing the Tsunade she came to know of having a nice bone in her body, it was actually a rather pleasant meal.
I had every intention of making a habit out of us three eating together when we all happened to be in the village because even just this one outing had a considerable positive impact on both of them, one of these days they might even call each other sisters.
Hearing the chūnin calling out my team brought me back to reality. I squinted a moment and let my eyes roam above all the students sitting in the grass right outside the academy-building.
"Team 7 consists of Uzumaki Kushina, Uchiha Mikoto, and Hyuuga Akiko under the jōnin-sensei Uzumaki Naruto" a chūnin read aloud.
I took a step forward from the line we jōnin-sensei formed behind the chūnin proclaiming the teams and commanded.
"Meet me at training ground 7 in 5 minutes," I commanded and took off towards the destination not bothering to wait for them. I told myself I wasn't fleeing the crowd of people but wasn't really successful in convincing myself.
Despite being back in time a little over a week I still felt uneasy when around strangers, and there weren't many people around who didn't count as such.
It wouldn't be a problem if the people I had to deal with were civilians; they wouldn't be able to pick up on me being coiled and ready to attack at the slightest provocation. Shinobi, on the other hand, had keen enough instincts to sense this, and their ingrained response was acting the same way - putting up their guard - which only worsened the problem.
No matter; I made myself comfortable and leaned against a tree shielded by its leaf canopy from the warm spring sun, and waited for the three of them to arrive.
A few minutes later they landed right in front of me, slightly out of breath, but well within the time-frame, I gave them.
"Sit down; let's talk," I said instead of a greeting.
I waited for them to find a place in the shade. Akiko and Mikoto both seated themselves on a logged tree. Kushina didn´t have such reservations, and only made a step inside the shadow cast by the tree I leaned against and sat down on the grass.
Akiko wore a white long, lose sleeved white kimono shirt that went down to her thighs with matching pants. Looking out from underneath her V-necked, kimono was the mesh shirt she wore underneath. Her headband was fastened around her right upper arm.
Which was in line with my observations of main house members never wearing it around their foreheads, flaunting their exalted status.
Her hair dark blue, reminiscent of Hinata hair color, fell in shoulder-length arm thick and intricately braided in between her shoulder blades.
Mikoto in contrast was clad in black. Long-legged form-fitting pants and shirt. Accentuating her budding body without showing off even a whiff of skin. For protection, she wore a black feature and pocketless flack jacket over her attire.
She wore her dark black hair, not unlike Itachi. Allowing it to fall around her forehead protector in wisps down to her chin framing her face.
"I think it would be best if we start with introductions," I said when they had finally settled, "I'll go first so you get an idea of how it is done. As you already know my name is Naruto Uzumaki, jōnin of Konoha. I just returned from a long-term classified mission, and with the passing of Mito Uzumaki I have taken up the mantle of Uzumaki clan leader from her. I have the pleasure of living together with the future first female Hokage of Konoha."
I could see Kushina's cheeks redden at hearing me say that in front of the others.
"I'm well versed in the art of sealing, and I gave a good grasp of the other shinobi disciplines. My favorite food is ramen."
"Hime why don't you go next. Tell us about your likes, dislikes, and dreams," I said smiling at the redhead whose skin threatened to become the same color as her hair.
"My name is Kushina Uzumaki. My favorite food is the divine creation called ramen. My hobbies are fūinjutsu, pranking, and training. I hate waiting and people that look down upon me my dreams and the people I care about. My dream is to become the first female Hokage."
"Given your academy ranking that is highly unlikely," Mikoto commented.
"It is not, you will see you damn ..." Kushina flared.
"Whoa! Let's not start our first team meeting calling each other names Hime. Mikoto-san, I would appreciate it if you wouldn't interrupt your teammate's introduction; I'm sure it is a courtesy you would like bestowed upon yourself, right?"
She nodded at my prompting.
"Continue, hime." I softly prompted her.
For some reason her face got redder and redder I began fearing for her health when she muttered something under her breath too faint to understand it.
"What was that? Sorry, it was too quiet for me to hear; it could you repeat it hime?" I asked.
"She said and I quote `I like my onii-chan´," Akiko said.
Of course, I heard her words clearly. My sharpened senses wouldn't allow me to miss it, and I tried to spare her the embarrassment since she was obviously too shy to admit to it openly. To Kushina's misfortune, Akiko had no intention of catering to Kushina's sensibilities.
Her mistake. She had barely closed her mouth when a fist socked Akiko hard in the side of her jaw. The hit pushed her from the log, and she landed in an unsightly manner on the ground. Kushina jumped to her feet and tried to jump on Akiko to resume beating the shit out of her, but I was in between them and caught Kushina mid-air, setting her softly down on the ground.
It took her hearing me say
"That's enough Kushina!" in a commanding tone to stop her halfhearted attempts to free herself from my grip, and she relented. I turned my head to Akiko who was just regaining her bearings Byakugan active and glaring at Kushina.
She was hit completely unaware; that must have stung her pride as a member of Konoha foremost taijutsu clan, and given how she had trouble standing up the hit clearly left an impression.
"Yeah, didn't think the academy allowed rabid dogs to graduate," she seethed between clenched teeth.
I could hear Kushina stopping in her tracks to seat herself again this time a little bit further away and took in a deep breath.
"Well since they allow dogs and their masters to graduate I don't see any problems doing the same with rabid ones; the trick seems to be not to antagonize them or their pack to not end up savaged, but I don't see why you would bring up the Inuzuka right now?"
I questioned her. She stilled, clearly understanding the subtext of my statement, and easily spotted the way out of the hole she was about to dig herself. To my relief, she was smart enough to accept it.
"No reason," but she couldn't help herself from glaring one last time at Kushina before putting on the Hyūga mask of indifference.
"Why don't you introduce yourself next?" I asked her.
She took her time and returned to her place while working her jaw, which would no doubt bruise if left unattended.
"My name is Akiko Hyūga, I'm the daughter of Hakaku Hyūga," I looked into her family to confirm my suspicions about her close kinship with the yet to be born Hinata and Hanabi, and as it turns out is a HyūgaElder cousin to the current clan-head named Hikaru Hyūga, father of twins by the name of Hizashi and Hiashi, meaning she can be called the princess of this Hyūga-clan generation. No wonder she ended up the wife of the future head.
"My favorite food are cinnamon buns," she said which made it clear that she had a sweet tooth like her two eventual daughters. "My dream is to advance the Jūken to a never before seen level and make it into not just the strongest taijutsu, but the most effective combat form there is." Whoa, that is a tall order, even someone like Neji, a bona fide genius, just scratched the surface of something like that before he died.
Interesting to note was that this time there was no mocking commentary from Mikoto. I wondered why though; wasn't there some competition between those two dōjutsu wielding clans of Konoha?
"I despise being anything less than perfect in all things that I do,"
and ended up giving Mikoto a hard stare as she said that, Mikoto dignifying her words with a smirk.
So no inter-clan competitiveness but a personal one, for not graduating first place.
Interestingly... I had trouble bringing the picture she painted of herself into alignment with what little Hinata remembered and shared with me about her late mother - the loving and unconditionally caring woman - because she seemed to live up to the Hyūga stoicism. Could it have been motherhood responsible for bringing her kindness to light?
"Okay... -" I drawled, this was gonna be so much fun — not.
"Mikoto-san you are up."
"My name is Mikoto Uchiha. I am the heiress of the Uchiha clan," was there a smile on her lips as she said that looking at Akiko. "My dream is to earn the title of the best genjutsu user of the elemental nations," well that might explain Itachi's exceptional skill with illusions if his mother came close to her dream before retiring. At my questioning glance, she added.
"My favorite food is dashiki."
"What about your dislikes?" I asked.
"I do not have any," was her flat response.
"None whatsoever? A food, an action, a person perhaps?" I followed up, unable to believe her claim.
"No, I do not," she repeated her answer.
Odd, especially in combination with her emotional response or lack thereof, but nothing to worry about for now.
"With introductions out of the way, let´s get to the core of things." I said and looked at the dōjutsu possessing members of my team "The two of you are probably aware, that you aren't full-fledged genin at this point."
"What? Why not? What was the point of the academy?" Kushina stammered surprised.
I had to suppress a smile; wasn't my reaction at hearing this quite similar.
"Well, before I was so rudely interrupted I was going to tell you," I said, giving Kushina a semi-serious glare that at least got Kushina to look sheepish and mumbled an apology under her breath.
"Why don't you two share with your teammate what you know about this."
"According to my father," Mikoto started "the academy serves its purpose by teaching the genin hopefuls the basics to get them to a level where specialized training can be applied fashioned towards the individual strengths of the respective genins to make them the best they can be. Since training is time-consuming and in certain cases dangerous, it can't be done in a classroom with one teacher overseeing a great number of students. The danger of serious injuries would just be too great should a jutsu misfire."
-Wasting all the time already invested in the training of them-
"Also the teacher would not be able to give enough assistance to every student because of their numbers."
-The village wouldn't want for next inventor of an unbeatable Jutsu to fall through.-
"Therefore teams are formed and a teacher assigned to every three students in order to allow for enough time to develop their pupils."
What she said was close enough to the truth that it could be written down in a guide-book.
"Something to add Akiko-san?" I asked.
"No, I was told something similar," she answered.
"Well, both of you are correct. That is the ideal scenario of what a jōnin-sensei should provide their charges with, opportunities to help them develop their own style cater to their individual needs allowing them to grow as you so excellently put it into the best they can be."
I paused for effect
"Tell me does any of you think that is realistic, or is it just a pipe dream of those who came up with the concept in the first place? I mean did one of you ask yourselves why you are at this point still genin-hopefuls? After all, you went through the basic training, therefore shouldn't you possess everything required of you to be eligible for further training? So why add this additional gateway?"
"No need to be shy — tell me what do you think?" I prompted them.
"The jōnin have different views on what it takes to be instructed by them?" Kushina hesitantly offered as an explanation.
"Was that a statement or a question?" I demanded to know.
"A statement," she said with regained confidence.
I gave her a curt nod when Akiko offered another explanation.
"Not every jōnin is fit to help his students, to develop their talents."
"Some non-clan affiliated jōnin might want a team with at least one genin in it capable to inherit their jutsu," Mikoto said. What a surprise that the one Uchiha in the team approached the problem from the jutsu side of things. "I mean there are some shinobi who don't have any family for whatever reason, but don't want their achievements they invested their time, sweat, and blood into to be forgotten."
"You all make valid points," I confirmed "and at least one if not all three apply to every jōnin's decision to accept a team as their own. Take Akiko for example, do you think the regular jōnin could help her with her Jūken or Mikoto with her Sharingan? It is also true that there are no small number of jōnin, as Kushina suspected, who take teams in the hope of finding an heir they can pass their knowledge and Jutsu onto, and there is also is a third category of jōnin who have a very different view on what it takes to be called shinobi," I paused for a moment allowing my words to sink in.
"Take the Third for example. Do you know what test his genin-hopefuls had to overcome for him to accept them as his students?" I asked.
They all shook their heads.
"No? - It was the so-called bell test. He showed them two bells like these" I held up two small bells I kept as a memento after Kakashi died "and told them that only those who could manage to snatch a bell from him would be passed and accepted as a genin by him, the rest would be sent back to the academy." The expression on Kushina's face was gold, how her face warped already in the process of making plans to get a bell before her teammates could. Her teammates hid it better, but they might have come to the same conclusions probably thinking if not for me enacting the same test why bring those bells.
Belying her expectations I asked.
"Do any of you know what purpose this test served? What was the Third looking for in his students?"
Silence was the answer I received all three of them thinking hard on it. I waited a moment and after not getting an answer said.
"Take the problem apart step by step only then you will get to the bottom of it," I lectured "Kushina-hime you are up what can you tell me?"
"There are two bells for three genin, meaning that one can't get a bell," she offered which brought her a snide comment from Akiko who uttered.
"Incredible deduction captain obvious," while rolling her eyes.
"Mikoto-san, are they right?" I inquired.
"No, the existence of two bells does not mean two get passed. It only means two might get passed. They are still required to bring a bell into their possession a difficult task facing a jōnin even for a complete team let alone three lone genin," she analyzed.
"So what do you take away from that?" I wondered.
"The Third only wanted the strongest in his team. Those who were not he would fail."
"Really?" I asked, "How many students does the Third have?"
"Three..." Mikoto blurted out and realization was written on her face.
"Why don't you enlighten your peers," I said to her.
"The test is a ploy, designed to focus the attention of the genin on the existence of the bells and the perceived passing condition to get one for themselves meanwhile diverting them from the real problem. Three genin having to fight an experienced jōnin over the mission objective an already hopeless undertaking under the most favorable of circumstances becomes utterly impossible the moment the genin decide not to work together as a team against the overwhelming odds a jōnin as opposition presents." Mikoto explained.
"So you are saying the whole test is designed to pit the genin against each other while the only hope for them to succeed would be for them to work together with each other. Does this mean, in order for them to pass this test, they are required to see through this ploy?" Akiko asked.
"No, it is about teamwork," Kushina interjected, "The test is about putting the needs of the team, the needs of the village above your own."
"Exactly — That is all the third cared about in his team. Even my own sensei was an adamant believer in this very notion. The personal credo he decided to live by was `those who break the rules are trash, but those who abandon their comrades are worse than trash!´"
"It was something I tried to live up to, to the very best of my ability, and in doing so I betrayed it."
"How? That doesn't make any sense?" Kushina questioned.
I had a slight smile on my lips.
"It doesn't, doesn't it?" I said "Well to understand that you first need to understand how my teacher came to believe in this. He was what most would call a prodigy. He was an early graduate a once in a decade genius and was on his way to becoming a legend like his late father was before he committed suicide after no longer being able to stand the ridicule of his fellow shinobi after he decided to abandon an important mission to save his comrades instead. Even those whose life he ended up saving did not stand by him. All things that didn't escape the notice of my teacher as a child, which is why he became a stickler for the rules. The very same ones you were taught in the academy."
"You know the whole list probably by heart:
A shinobi must always put the mission first.
A shinobi must never show their tears during a mission.
A shinobi must follow their commander's instructions.
A shinobi must this and that bullshit."
I irritatedly ended my recital. I never got their importance even before I met Haku.
"He became a walking rule book — unflexible in every sense of the word, He would have rather broken or died than to bend or disregard any of them. Well, until a certain event took place," I momentarily paused.
"One of his teammates was captured while on a critical mission, and he as the leader commanded that what was left of the team my teacher himself and one other shinobi, were to complete the mission, instead of trying to rescue their teammate, disregarding her. His comrade who was aware of what happened to his father thought differently - in his opinion, there was nothing more important than the life of a comrade. - Well, to be fair it didn't exactly help matters that the teammate was hopelessly in love with the one who got captured. So instead of following the orders of my sensei, he said to him - `those who break the rules are trash, but those who abandon their comrades are worse than trash!´ and in his eyes, the father of my sensei was a hero everyone should look up to."
"He had the truth of it!" Kushina proclaimed.
"Did he?" I asked with raised eyebrows.
"Of course!" she blurted out with what seemed like unwavering conviction.
"Even if the mission they abandoned was really important and in doing so could have cost thousands their lives. Would you still say he was right?" I inquired, which seemed to be enough to cast doubt in her belief because she stammered.
"I ... I don't know."
"What happened?" Mikoto was always the pragmatist it seemed. Not interested in the moral debate of right or wrong of the actions themselves, only the consequences.
"Well, my sensei ultimately decided to abandon his mission too, and together they succeeded in rescuing their teammate," I said.
Kushina balled her fist and interrupted my recount of the events with a happy
Ignoring her outburst I just continued
"But in the process, my sensei's other teammate, the one who persisted on rescuing their other teammate lost his life."
"Oh" escaped Kushina clearly surprised by the turn of events, hoping for a happy ending perhaps? She had yet to learn life doesn't always have a happy ending; quite the contrary it was the exception. It was far more likely it would end early and viciously. I closed my eyes and pushed those dark thoughts back below the surface of my consciousness, reminding myself I was here to change that. To spare her, especially her from experiencing this.
When I opened my eyes again a few moments later I calmly continued to say
"It didn't end there, with his dying breath my sensei's comrade made him promise to take care of the girl. Something not a year later he failed to do. I'm gonna spare you the gruesome details of this particular story. The point I'm trying to make is that the experiences my sensei went through shaped his perception and formed this codex of his. `Never to abandon a comrade ever´ was what he lived by, a codex I adopted for myself without fully understanding it and the implications."
"See, in the case of my sensei he would have gladly have given his life for each one of his students," I said with barely hidden pain in my voice "He was barely holding himself together after already having failed in protecting his teammates twice and a third time would definitely have been too much for him."
I saw in my mind's eye how his body was ripped apart by a jutsu meant for Sakura, who was bent over a dying Temari trying to save her.
"So if he had died along with his teammates he could also have easily taken their place," I sadly said. "This defined how far he would have gone for any of us, and I foolishly tried to do the same. For a comrade who deserted the village and tried to kill me on five separate occasions, but no matter what he tried to do to me I always thought of myself worth less than him, the lengths I went through to get him back, the sacrifices I made. Nothing no matter how much it cost me, could dissuade me from trying up to my teacher's expectations."
I took a deep breath,
"Until one day, I found out that there was a limit, a line I was not ready to cross in the pursuit of getting my wayward teammate back. When he killed other friends of mine, friends who would have lived had I just opened my eyes to the truth of things, to the reality, and would have stopped living in my little make-believe world and just accepted that my teammate was long gone.-
Perhaps he wasn't even there in the first place and the person I thought I knew him to be was nothing but a figment of my imagination, nothing but a mask he wanted me to see.
Because I couldn't accept the truth, that he never cared about me, about the village, and that the bond I thought we shared was just an illusion I told myself of the one person I wanted to accept me as an equal.
I ended up losing true comrades, people who stood by me and cared about me.
So in my pursuit to live up to the one rule my sensei imparted me with, that there was nothing more important than comrades. My stupid idealistic younger self followed after someone who at the very moment he abandoned me and the village severed his bonds and no longer saw himself as my comrade, and in order to get him back, I endangered those true comrades I had left. My hard-headedness to give up someone who wasn't even worth it in the first place — was responsible for the death of those deserving my loyalty, my friendship and it took me losing them to see my former teammate as the traitor he was."
I struggled a moment with the reemerging feelings that accompanied those painful memories.
"You are probably asking yourself. Why is this guy telling us this on the eve of us becoming genin?"
None of them visibly reacted to my insinuation, which is why I proceeded in telling them.
"The lesson I want you to take away from this is the following. Rules are static; they were made with a certain situation in mind to which they are applicable, but you won't ever come to be in the exact same situation for which they were made. There will be deviations in some cases they might be minor and in other cases major, but these deviations will make all the difference. So I urge you never to follow any rule or codex to the letter; bend and break those rules to fit your needs, to fit the situation you find yourself in, because the only thing that really matters is if you can still look at yourself in the mirror the day after everything is over and done with. After all, at end of the day, you have to live with the decisions you made."
"You think you can do that?" I asked hoping some of them also learned from my little story that an enemy killed today won't bother you tomorrow. If not, there would be plenty of time to impart them with that particular notion. That reminded me.
"Oh, and by the way," I added "If I wasn't clear by now. If you ever betray me or the village, I will personally end you!" I emphasized this by emitting a healthy dose of killing intent.
The reactions were immediate, with Akiko and Mikoto activating their respective dōjutsu.
Neither of the girls did so much as twitch a single muscle, their eyes solely trained on me, their primal instincts probably screaming in their heads for them to move their bodies, to get away from me, the cold grip of the fear that took control of them just proving to be far too strong with no chance of them overcoming it by themselves.
When I noticed none of them took even a single breath since I uttered my last words I allowed my killing intent to recede.
Within a moment of them being free from the fear, they all gasped for air. Aikiko and Mikoto warily scrambled away a few inches from me their guard up.
"What the hell was that onii-chan?" she hotly asked.
"A little reminder so that you won't forget my words," I seriously said.
Her expression made it clear she didn't fully buy my explanation.
"And it certainly doesn't hurt to make acquaintance with killer intent early in your shinobi career and allow you to get used to it. You can believe me, this is far better than the alternative," I stated.
"I see — " Akiko mused. "So what is our test gonna be for you to accept as your students?"
"No test –" I said "as far as I'm concerned you are my students already. Besides, I doubt I would be allowed to fail you. Ignoring my little hime and the fact that she would make my life a living hell if I dared fail her. Your clans have far too much clout for me to get away with it. The worst-case scenario for if I could make a convincing case in front of the Hokage why you are unfit to be shinobi would result in you just getting assigned to another jōnin. I on the other hand would face repercussions, which could even include my clan for my actions. So you see, you never had anything to fear."
"So it is just politics and nobody is judged by their own merits?" Mikoto dryly questioned.
"Oh, I wouldn´t say that," I answered bemusedly, "there are no small number of academy graduates without the backing of a powerful clan. In addition, you also seem to forget an important aspect. You stem from a clan, tell me would your clan tolerate one of your kin becoming a shinobi without the skills to do so?"
"No, it would be seen as a disgrace for the family name," Akiko stated.
"Exactly, the major clans of Konoha pride themselves on the superior abilities of their children so any inept child of your clans would have been weeded out long before the graduation in order to spare the clan the embarrassment of having a child in their midst not up for it, and children such as you, fit to become shinobi receive additional training to put you above the curve of those with no clan backing," I confirmed.
"What happens to those children not up to it?" Kushina wondered.
"From what I deduced such rare cases end up in some civilian profession," I said, "it varies depending on the clan, right?"
Akiko and Mikoto both nodded.
"Well, with that out of the way. I think we should start with our first lesson," I said and gave Mikoto a questioning look.
"Why don't you deactivate your dōjutsu for a while until I'm done explaining? You might need the chakra you are burning through right now."
"Sharingan?! What?" she looked down at her hands while opening and closing them fascinated by what her eyes were showing her. Akiko was so helpful and offered her a polished kunai, in which she could see the reflection of her eyes. "When? How?"
I was surprised; apparently, the reports were true, and she really didn't have an active Sharingan. I thought it to be an oversight or an intentionally kept secret since I didn't expect a scion of the Uchiha clan, the heiress to be exact with her family still around not having activated her Sharingan at the age of 12. I always thought the inner-clan competitiveness wouldn't allow for anything else than for the clan heirs to excel, to show the clan they deserve their position by being better than their peers. What better way was there in a dōjutsu wielding clan than to show proficiency with it?
I vaguely remembered having heard something to that effect - the Uchiha determined the potential of their clansmen by the age they managed to activate their Sharingan. Probably something Sasuke said and thought to be true because I have trouble believing activating some fancy eyes are even remotely linked to one's talent.
I sighed, refocused on the matter at hand
"the first thing you need to learn is how to sur..."
Suddenly there was a stinging pain in my chest when I looked down I saw a lightning-covered hand sticking out of my torso the exact place where my heart was located. Shit... and the world started to turn dark.
Authors Note: Well I'm not a fan of cliffhanger in any shape or form, so with that said I hope you can forgive me just this once for using one. I just couldn't resist in this case because it was the prime opportunity to change the perspective from Naruto to one of his students in the next Interlude chapter.
Last edited 27.10.2020